Someone responded to a poem I wrote by saying I was an ignorant religious person, divisive, and a bad writer. I’m not fishing for compliments. So, don’t worry about filling my bucket. Rather, I’m just wanting to look at this philosophically. What I’m thinking about is the question of how or if one should try to prove someone wrong when they are choosing to project fear onto who is in front of them rather than opening themselves to deeper relating across differences.
As a Black man, I’ve lived all of my life with the awareness that many people will make assumptions about me based solely on my appearance. (And, yes, I know other people have their versions of being prejudged. This isn’t a “poor me” competition either.) I’m just saying, that I am a veteran of being projected onto by people who see their fears rather than my face. So, for the most part, I’ve learned to live with it. Because, I don’t have a choice as to whether I live with it or not. But, I do have a choice on how I live with it.
What I’ve done my best to do is live by the Golden Rule of not doing to people what I wouldn’t want done to me. And then, I upped the ante by trying to follow the teachings of Yeshua (Jesus) as I understand them by not doing to others what has actually been done to me. Sometimes by that person. After some spiritual experiences that I won’t get into right now, I’ve taken the teachings to heart and mind and body because when I was at my lowest, the teachings were a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path and they showed me that no matter what I had been through, there has never been a single moment that I was not held by a boundless love.
That awareness was so overwhelming that I just wanted to love as I now knew I had always been loved. But, I didn’t have the words to express it. And that said nothing of the centuries of bad press that came with the teachings being tainted with the history of colonization when it was given for Liberation. So, I started using poetry as a way of inviting people into this loving relationship I had with the teachings. Fast forward some years I go to seminary and serve in churches for a decade hoping that I’d learn how to communicate that love.
Now, I’m going on three months out of the pulpit. I still feel the love. But, I can’t say I’m any better at communicating it. People still see what they want to see. Fear is still the first thing that comes up in most folks minds when they think of “the other”. And the teachings that so inform me still have a reputation for being a tool of division. Marginalized folks are still not feeling safe and rather than all of us working together to try to create systems that foster collaboration and equity, it seems most folks are trying to win first place in the Oppression Olympics.
And yet, that love that grabbed me won’t let me go. So I guess to answer my own question about whether one should try to prove someone wrong when they are choosing to project fear onto who is in front of them rather than opening themselves to deeper relating across differences, I’ll say no. I shouldn’t try to prove them wrong. Rather, I’ll try to prove them loved by projecting live into the world wherever I see folks projecting fear. Because even though, I might not be able to communicate love with my words, I always have the choice to communicate it with my being.